New interim CEO of Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO), Ross Levinsohn, needs to make his mark quickly. After firing 2,000 people, his predecessor had plans to move the Internet portal into e-commerce, a business Scott Thompson knew well. As the current EVP of Yahoo!’s global media business, a title he still holds, its very likely that Levinsohn will try to grow their media franchises.
According to AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka, it’s something he thinks the new CEO will try: “If Levinsohn gets to run Yahoo the way he wants to run Yahoo, he’ll focus on getting the most out of its media business, because that’s his strength.”
Yahoo! could afford to increase its content holdings if it sells off some of its largest assets. The company may soon have a war chest of over $10 billion if it disposes of stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan. This money will be added to cash on hand. Yahoo! also has no long-term debt.
There’s at least one publicly traded company that Levinsohn might consider. If it buys Demand Media, (NYSE: DMD)Yahoo! could add a huge number of unique visitors in one move. In the most recent Comscore online research measurement, it had 64 million US unique visitors.
While it’s not doing well as well as it once was, that’s probably why Yahoo! could acquire it inexpensively. Demand’s shares have fallen from $16.40 to $8.50 in the last year. The firm’s traffic was battered when Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) changed the way it treated Demand’s sites for how the search company assigns page rank, and therefore traffic. But that happened a year ago.
Demand has become a slow growth corporation, but still has a huge audience. Unfortunately, its quarterly revenue in the last period was a tiny $86 million, up only 8% from the same period a year ago. The company lost almost $2 million in the same period. Yahoo! would have to find a way to get a better yield from Demand’s audience to make it a smart acquisition. But Demand could be bought at a low price. Its current market cap is is only $675 million.
There are many more opportunities among privately held startups. Yahoo! could follow AOL’s (NYSE: AOL) lead and buy premium properties one by one. It could also match the categories AOL believes have the best yields. 24/7 Wall St. has identified the most likely targets in the event Yahoo! goes down that path. Where 24/7 Wall St. has already valued these properties in its annual blog valuation piece, those numbers have been used as a benchmark for probable acquisition price.
1) Mashable - A category which has shown rapid growth and gets strong ad yields is tech. Yahoo! could buy Mashable, one of the largest sites in the category. There was a rumor three months ago that CNN might buy Mashable for $200 million. Based on Mashable’s traffic, the figure is wildly high. A more likely price would be $45 to $50 million, based on unique visitor count, which according to measurement firm Compete is about 2.7 million. 24/7 valued the site at $40 million, but the CNN news likely raised the perceived value of the company.
2)Mac Rumors – One of the most popular category in the tech sector is sites based on Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) news. These have done remarkably well. AOL owns TUAW, one of the largest tech sites in the US, which is based on Apple news and rumors. Even large general news sites like CNN Money have special sections which cover Apple. Among the largest independent Apple news sites are 9to5Mac and Mac Rumors. 9to5Mac may be too small, but Mac Rumors has over a million unique visitors a month according to Compete. Based on that size, and the multiples that sites like TechCrunch has sold for Mac Rumors is worth about $50 million, according to recent 24/7 Wall St. estimates.
3) Vox Media – Yahoo! already has a successful online sports franchise. It could build on this foundation through one or two M&A transactions. SB Nation, a collection of over 300 sports websites has 3.6 million unique visitors, Compete reports. SB Nation’s parent also controls The Verge, a new and successful tech site. SB has venture investments from Accel Partners, Comcast Ventures, Allen & Company, and Khosla Ventures. These investors probably want a return soon. SB raised $17 million earlier this year. 24/7 said SB was worth $52 million last year. The new funding, The Verge, and a motivated buyer could take the value of SB/The Verge to $100 million. (Editor’s Note: Another media measurement service, Comscore, puts monthly unique visitors for SB Nation at 9.7 million, almost identical to BleacherReport. Comscore puts the comparable audience of Yahoo! Sports at 47.6 million.)
4) Bleacher Report – Another large online sports site business is Bleacher Report, which has nearly seven million unique visitors, according to Compete. That makes it one of the larger independent sites of any kind in the US. Based on that size and the limited number of large independent sports websites, Bleacher Report is worth over $130 million.
5) TMZ.com – One of the most popular celebrity and gossip sites is TMZ.com, which has both online and television properties. The site has 7.5 million unique visitors a month. TMZ’s online revenue has been estimated at between $15 million and $20 million. It is the second-largest celebrity website in the US behind Yahoo!’s own OMG, according to web research firm Comscore. Based on its size and estimated revenue, the company is worth $65 million to $70 million.
6) Business Insider – Yahoo! already has an affiliation with Business Insider, the fastest growing large business and financial site over the last four years. 24/7 Wall St. estimated BI revenue for 2011 at just above $10 million, and valued the company at $45 million. Its ongoing growth takes that valuation up by $5 million to $10 million, which would raise the purchase price to $50 million to $55 million. Business Insider, which has 3.1 million unique visitors a month according to Compete, could be married with Yahoo! Finance, the largest finance website in the US, as a means to give Yahoo! more original programming.
7) PopSugar – This group of sites caters to young women. 24/7 Wall St. valued it at $64 million. The company has raised as much as $46 million. The disadvantages include competition from online versions of women’s magazines and the relatively low number of premium ads that the demographic commands.
-Douglas A. McIntyre